Think before you act

Why Naftali Bennett’s speech should not have been interrupted.

May 27, 2013 22:22
3 minute read.
Economics and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett arriving for cabinet meeting, April 28, 2013.

Naftali Bennett at cabinet meeting 370. (photo credit: Alex Kolomoisky/Pool/Yediot Aharonot)

As a previous participant on a MASA-sponsored Israel program, I find the behavior of the people who disrupted Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett’s keynote speech at the MASA event yesterday to be shameful, disrespectful and unfortunate.

The disruption of Bennett’s speech brings to light parallel techniques used by BDS (Boycotts Divestment and Sanctions) members in South Africa; people who are not interested in dialogue but would rather polarize people to take an anti-Israel stance.

As a student of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, I have experienced the Israel-Apartheid week (IAW) in which anti-Israel sentiment was spewed from the mouths of anti-Israel lobbyists. On numerous occasions, events and talks were disrupted in similar fashion. When seeing such videos or reading such stories, I cannot help but draw comparisons and recall the doings of those anti- Israel lobbyists.

The author of the article “Why I interrupted Naftali Bennett’s speech,” Joshua Leifer, explains how the disruption of the MASA event was successful as it generated debate and discussion after the event. However, if one believes in generating discussion, one should engage with it in a proper manner and should adopt the appropriate methods to get their opinion across, rather than being “disrespectful” and “proud of it.”

Israel is an extremely complex state that hosts a number of diverse opinions, which include Jewish, Christian and Muslim opinions among others. Ultimately, all these opinions serve as evidence to show that Israel does have issues and criticisms. Israel is not perfect, and just like all states, it can and should be criticized where necessary. When Jewish people across the world benefit from Israeli technology, medicine, agriculture and education partly as a result of their title of “Zionist” or “Jew” and then attempt to side with the policies of people who are determined to seek Israel’s destruction, it is very hypocritical and unfortunate.

This group of individuals tried to confront moral issues within the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and create a moral debate, but did so in an immoral manner. If any of those demonstrators were sponsored by Masa, I urge them to refund the money that was contributed toward helping them gain an Israel experience. I fail to understand why these people feel it is more important to demonstrate against a democratic state like Israel than against the mass human rights violations that occur in other parts of the world such as Syria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen and many more.

To express different opinions is deeply important. People have a right to voice their concerns and opinions, but it needs to be done in the correct manner. My experience in the Betar youth movement has taught me to be modest yet tenacious in my actions through Hadar and Tagar. It is the responsibility of Jews and Jewish youth to support Israel and aid it, rather than align themselves with people whose beliefs seek its destruction.

Israel protects Jews in Israel and abroad. It also protects Israeli Arabs because they have full citizenship.

When I was volunteering at a school in Jerusalem and teaching English to both Jewish and Arab Israelis, I felt a sense of fulfilment and pride when I remembered the words of Ze’ev Jabotinsky (Rosh Betar): “From the wealth of our land there shall prosper the Arab, the Christian and the Jew.”

I am proud that there are Muslim, Jewish, left-wing and right-wing opinions in the Israeli Knesset. It shows the democracy and diversity of Israel. I hope that people will try and understand the complexity of the situation and thus will make educated decisions with Israel’s successful and safe future in mind. I also hope that people will support and stand by Israel through its difficult times, just as Israel stands with all Jews.

Tel Chai! 

The writer is the national chairman of Betar South Africa.

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